The Medical Center of the University of Rochester explains that a speculum, cervical brush and a glass slide are used during a pap smear along with a preserving solution. The metal or plastic speculum is inserted into the vagina and opens the walls to make the cervix accessible to perform the test. The cervical brush collects cervical cells from the inner and outer surfaces of the cervix.
The cervical cells are smeared onto the glass slide and preserved with a solution to prevent the cells from changing before the test can be analyzed. According to The Medical Center of the University of Rochester, a pap smear collects between 50,000 and 300,000 cervical cells.
The source explains that a pap smear is tested for cellular abnormalities. Precancerous or cancerous cells, hormonal changes or inflammation may cause abnormalities. Bacterial, viral or yeast infections can be determined from a pap smear. Sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes simplex, can be diagnosed with a pap smear as well. Doctors advises women over 18 or who are sexually active to get an annual pap smear.
The Mayo Clinic notes that the doctor should analyze abnormal test results to determine the next steps. A biopsy or colposcopy exam can confirm whether or not the abnormality is linked to cancerous or precancerous cells.